Burglary court trial begins

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Prosecution calls witnesses Tuesday

By Joseph Marks. staff writer

The prosecution called witnesses Tuesday in the first day of the state’s trial of defendant Larry Barnett.

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Barnett was charged with burglary March 21 for allegedly breaking into the Alliance Benefits Group Financial Services Corp. building at 201 E. Clark St., according to papers filed in Freeborn County District Court.

Police claim Barnett entered the building through a back door by Newton Street March 19 and walked through the entire building before exiting from the front door. It was there he was arrested by police who were responding to alarms.

Assistant County Attorney David Walker said the alarms were audible inside the building when police arrived. The building is not open during weekends and was closed at the time of Barnett’s arrest.

Barnett has consistently claimed he only entered the front door of the building looking for a restroom and immediately left when he found the interior front doors were locked.

The ABG building is near the Albert Lea Public Library and several bars and restaurants with restrooms.

A witness who was walking down an alley next to the ABG building testified he saw a man enter the back door of the building wearing a hat and gloves.

At one point the witness told Walker he could not identify the race of the man entering the building. He later said he remembered telling police the man was black and upon further questioning said he currently remembered the man as being black.

The majority owner of the ABG building, Alan Arends, testified Tuesday the building contains sensitive financial material about its employees and the employees of the companies it services, including payroll records and retirement plans.

Arends said no sensitive material or electronic equipment appeared to be disturbed when he briefly toured the building March 19 with police. He said employees were instructed to examine their desks for any sign of disruption the following Monday and none was reported.

Police reports state the lock on the back door of the building was damaged when they arrived March 19 and the door was propped open by a floor mat.

Arends said the building’s back door is only used by employees and locks automatically when closed. He said he cannot remember ever seeing the door propped open before.

Arends said a police officer showed him March 19 how the back door could easily be jimmied open using a pen knife. He said the lock has since been changed.

Lt. Jeff Strom testified Tuesday a canine used by police to track human scents led police from the back door of the building past rooms where sensitive financial material is kept to the front door where Barnett was seen leaving the building. He also testified shoe prints led in the same direction.

Assistant County Attorney Walker showed pictures during the trial of the damaged door and the shoe prints inside the building. He said police never found a tool March 19 that a burglar could have used to pry open the back door.

When questioned by Kevin Riha, a lawyer from the Owatonna Public Defender’s Office appointed to represent Barnett, Albert Lea Police detective Frank Kohl, who took the pictures of the shoe prints, testified several police officers had walked through the building before the pictures were taken.

Strom testified he saw Barnett’s live-in girlfriend drive past the back entrance of the building while Barnett was being detained in the front and called to her to pull over and she was interviewed at the scene.